On April 22, a joint team from the Immigration Department and the Nepalese Police raided a house in Maharajgunj, Kathmandu, and arrested 22 Chinese nationals. Interestingly, at the time this news was largely ignored by Nepal’s mainstream media and details about the incident remain obscure to this day.
ApEx learns that the authorities had received information about suspicious activity in the house and the suspects had been caught with 35 laptops, 675 mobile phones and 760 SIM cards issued by Nepal Telecom and NCell.
The Chinese citizens are suspected of being part of a syndicate involved in cross-border online gambling. However, neither the immigration agency nor the police have the proper technology and personnel to confirm their suspicions.
With no firm basis to charge the suspects, the 22 were released a day later on the condition that they help authorities with the investigation. The immigration department has confiscated their passports to prevent them from leaving the country.
The suspects, who were released into the custody of Manjil Shrestha, are currently staying at a hotel in Thamel.
Narayan Prasad Bhattarai, director-general of the Immigration Department, says the investigation is being carried out with the help of the police.
“The suspects had entered Nepal on business visas. We also discovered that one of them had overstayed his visa,” says Bhattarai. “We are still trying to find out the nature of their activities here in Nepal.”
Laptops and mobile phones seized from Chinese citizens were sent to the Central Police Forensic Science Laboratory. The digital forensic report of these devices will be crucial in the investigation.
The increasing involvement of Chinese citizens in illegal activities has become a serious concern for the Nepalese authorities. Among other things, they are suspected of running online Ponzi schemes and defrauding foreign nationals with lures of easy loans. The immigration department is responsible for investigating crimes committed by foreigners. But the department has been unable to fulfill this responsibility due to labor shortages. While he has shown some willingness to investigate foreign nationals involved in suspicious acts, his investigations are rarely successful.
Even the police seem to lack experience in effectively investigating suspected illegal activities by foreigners. And when it comes to crimes committed through the misuse of technology, they are woefully incompetent.
This became evident when authorities arrested 122 Chinese nationals, also wearing similar equipment, in December 2019 for their alleged involvement in criminal activities. These arrests were made with the help of the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu, which was concerned that the suspects were tarnishing China’s image.
They were eventually extradited to China. The Ministry of Public Security of the People’s Republic of China had chartered two planes to take them back. A senior official from China’s Criminal Investigation Department had personally gone to Kathmandu to negotiate extradition with the Nepalese authorities.
The decision of the Nepalese authorities on the last group of 22 Chinese citizens detained in Kathmandu is unknown. They seem to be struggling to find out what kind of activities the suspects were involved in. The investigation and study of evidence so far have offered few clues. (The Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu did not respond to our queries about the Chinese nationals arrested.)
What the police know so far is that the suspects conducted their business and transactions using various applications with their servers in mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau. The problem is that these transaction logs cannot be accessed to know the extent of your daily transactions.
However, police and immigration officials insist the investigation is still ongoing with the few technical resources they have at their disposal.
Police have also been using translators to question suspects.
Meanwhile, the immigration agency has decided to deport and impose a one-year travel ban on one of the suspects who overstayed his visa.
Bhattarai, director general of the Immigration Department, confirmed the decision made by a meeting at the level of secretaries of the Ministry of the Interior to deport and ban a Liancheng Wang with passport number E64817354 (see photo on the side).
“It will take some time to deport him as flights between Nepal and China are suspended at the moment,” says Bhattarai. “According to the decision of the Ministry of the Interior, he will be banned from traveling to Nepal for one year.”